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Border control and conflict dynamics: Israel’s new approach in Gaza

May 13,2024 - Last updated at May 13,2024

Israeli control of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt marks a significant shift in the conflict’s dynamics, signalling a new phase. While negotiations are ongoing and Israel is actively involved, its limited ground assault in Rafah signifies a strategic move to curtail Hamas’s political manoeuvrability. By asserting control over the borders, Israel is establishing a de facto situation that marginalises Hamas’ influence. This tactical approach represents a gradual escalation in the battle for Rafah and opens the door for debate around who controls the border in the future.

The primary objective for Israel is to gain full control over the Philadelphia Axis. Geographically extending into Sinai, this area holds crucial strategic importance for Israeli security. By closing and controlling the Rafah crossing, Israel aims to tighten its security grip both internally and externally. This underscores the critical role of security considerations at the Rafah crossing, as Israel believes that only by controlling the entire Philadelphia Axis can it effectively stem the flow of weapons to Hamas and the mobility of its people.

The reluctance to invade Rafah directly has led Israel to adopt a more indirect approach. By prioritising border control, Israel seeks to gain leverage from a security standpoint, allowing for easier extension of operations with fewer obstacles. However, achieving closure on the conflict in Gaza or accepting a truce poses challenges for Israel, as it cannot declare an end to the Gaza situation without this process.

As a result, alternative crossings like Kerem Shalom may be utilised for humanitarian purposes, albeit with limited access due to heightened security concerns. Concurrently, the activation of the floating port aims to address humanitarian needs and demonstrates a focus on the humanitarian aspect of the conflict. Yet, the floating port may also serve as an opportunity for voluntary migration for those seeking refuge amidst the ongoing uncertainty.

From a security perspective, Israel’s call for evacuation in the Rafah area, following the assertion of control over the border crossings, is strategically aimed at reshaping the security landscape.

By reducing the population density in Rafah, Israel hopes to create conditions conducive to more effective engagement of Hamas forces and minimising civilian casualties.

There is no doubt, that this shift in strategy underscores Israel’s commitment to pursuing its security objectives while navigating the complexities of the conflict and the pressure it is under from allies, mainly the US. However, by exerting control over key border crossings, Israel is not only seeking to limit Hamas’ capabilities but also to shape the broader narrative surrounding the conflict.

Overall, Israel’s actions represent a strategic shift in its approach to ending the conflict according to its vision. By breaking taboos surrounding direct invasion and leveraging control over border crossings, Israel is asserting its role as a key player in determining the trajectory of negotiations and conflict resolution efforts. As the situation continues to evolve, the pressure on Israel might increase and this will also challenge Israel’s ability to balance its security imperatives with humanitarian considerations.

The next few moves will be crucial in shaping the path towards a lasting resolution to the conflict.

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